The Seattle Times and the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild have reached a tentative agreement on conditions for the layoff of as many as 55 guild employees. The paper, which wants to cut as many as 110 positions out of about 1,500 after losing $12 million in 2004, had asked for new newsroom job classifications that would give it some flexibility in choosing whom to lay off. The guild contract stipulates that layoffs be based on seniority. In exchange for the new job classifications, the paper would offer certain guild members who volunteer to leave a severance package that could net them as much as 52 weeks of salary plus some health benefits. Times-employed guild members are to vote on the agreement Friday, Feb. 11, and Saturday, Feb. 12. If approved, the agreement could bring a flurry of resignations next week. According to Kerry Coughlin, the Times' spokesperson, guild and other union employees at the paper, as well as nonunionized employees in management and administration, will have to express interest in the severance package within days; the paper is rushing to make the payroll cuts estimated by some to range from $6 million to $7 million. If union members reject the trade-off, the Times will make cuts according to terms of the contract. Times management has said 23 positions would be cut in the newsroom; most of these would be reporters in the two suburban bureaus as well as reporters in the paper's three-year fellowship program, some of whom joined the paper only recently. If enough of the paper's 335 editorial employees opt to take the severance along with some nonunion managers, the paper could achieve its budget target without axing bureau reporters and editors. "Everyone would like to see that happen," says Steve Miletich, a Times reporter and the guild's vice president.
While the Times will cut staff, last week Real Change, the twice-monthly paper sold by the homeless throughout King County, put two paid reporters on the street and began weekly publication. From the look of the first issue, the paper won't just be reporting on homelessness and economic inequality, its founding focus. It will dig into city politics and neighborhood news, as well. The paper costs $1, 70 cents of which goes to the homeless vendor who sells it to you. PHILIP DAWDY
Forget those kitchen knives that cut metal! Here's a real cutting-edge infomercial! It's a come-on for a new product from state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver! You remember Don! He led the fight to bring back a French chef to the state Senate's private dining room! His newest boondoggle is a political newsletter, launched last week, offered by his consulting firm, the Benton Group! Not connected with his public duties as senator, of course! "Imagine the time you'll save!" he writes on his Web site! "Imagine how quickly you can react to the news that will impact YOU the most! Imagine how valuable a tool is that will allow YOU to affect policy . . . YOU to affect legislation . . . YOU to get involved in a way that will magnify your impact on the process ten-fold!" It's at www.todayinpolitics.com! Costs only $495 if you're an elected official! Or $565 if you're not! Again, not connected to his taxpayer duties! "For ten consecutive years, I have served together with an incredibly eclectic and valuable array of men and women. We had Gary Locke, Irv Newhouse, Lorraine Wojohn, Clyde Ballard . . . literally a who's who galaxy of political news making stars. Now the new superstar newsmakers are emerging and who knows what they will be up to? YOU'LL KNOW!!! When you receive your copy of 'Today in Politics.'" The first edition on his Web site features links to news stories available anywhere! "Elma man trying to lease city land for gun club," is one headline! "We will also have some special video capabilities from time to time," says Benton's promo! "But wait, there's more!!!! After all, I am in the marketing biz, so how about a top quality, not-made-by-slave-labor 'Today in Politics' official 'Charter Subscriber' souvenir T-shirt! Yes, a true collector's item. Limited edition,
even!" If you subscribe just to kiss up to Don, this offer void, of course! RICK ANDERSON!